Production control: A case study of a Japanese automobile plant

Laurie Ann Graham, Purdue University


Modern Japanese management practices were investigated by a hidden participant/observation work experience over a six month period. Direct observation documents the nature of each component in management's system of controlling workers at the point of production. Observations were organized to analyze the effects of Japanese management on U.S. workers and to assess the hypothesis that Japanese management practices result in resistance among those workers. Seven components of control were identified in this management scheme. These components fell into two categories: social or technical attempts at control. Social aspects included a pre-employment selection process, an orientation and training program for new employees, organization of work around a team concept, a company philosophy of kaizen (continuous improvement), and attempts at manipulating shop floor culture through a corporate culture of egalitarianism. Technical control was found in the computerized assembly line and just-in-time production. Each of these components contributed to management's system of control at the point of production. Evidence of worker resistance to these components was found in various forms. Collective resistance emerged in the form of sabotage, protest, and direct confrontation. Individual resistance was expressed through workers coming too late for participation in a daily company ritual and also through anonymous letters to the company. Results of these observations clearly demonstrate that Japanese management practices lead to resistance on the part of American workers. The success of these resistive strategies was variable. In general, the balance of control at the point of production shifted to the workers only when resistance was collective.




Perrucci, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Labor relations|Sociology

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server